Queen Elizabeth 2
May 2, 1969: Queen Elizabeth 2 begins her maiden voyage. Also known as QE2, the ocean liner was built for Cunard Line and operated as both a transatlantic liner and a cruise ship until 2008. Her home port was Southampton, United Kingdom and her destination was New York City. She was named after a previous Cunard liner, RMS Queen Elizabeth and QE2 served as the flagship of the line until 2004 when RMS Queen Mary 2 took over that spot. QE2 was the last oil-fired passenger steamship to cross the Atlantic in scheduled service before she was refitted with diesel engines in 1986/87. The ship was retired from active service on November 27, 2008 and acquired by Istithmar, part of Dubai World.
By the mid-1960s, transatlantic crossing were done predominantly by air. Flights were faster and more economical. Both the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary ships were outdated and costly to run, making it even less desirable. Cunard took a gamble and created a new ship which was smaller and more affordable to operate, using only half the fuel to maintain the same speeds as the older ships. QE2 was also able to traverse the Panama Canal, which her predecessors could not do. Risking $80 million, Cunard made the bet that with this new type of ship, cruising across the Atlantic would once again be popular.
QE2 was built by the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the John Brown Shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland. The keel was laid down on July 5, 1965 and she was launched and named on September 20, 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II who used the same pair of gold scissors her mother and grandmother had used when christening the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, respectively. QE2 had been built in the same plot as both of the aforementioned ships as well as Lusitania and Aquitania. On November 19, 1968, she left the berth and traveled down the River Clyde and began final tests and commissioning. She was given sea tests in the Irish Sea and finally took a “shakedown cruise” to Las Palmas, setting sail on April 22, 1969. All went well and on this day, she began her official maiden voyage.
She left Southampton and 4 days, 16 hours, and 35 minutes later she arrived in New York City. One of the highlights of her nearly four decades of service include the rescue of about 500 passengers from the burning French Line ship, Antilles. QE2 was the object of a bomb threat as she left New York City on May 17, 1972 and although searched by specialists flown by helicopter and parachuting down to the ship, no bomb was found. The FBI arrested the hoaxer. She moved troops to the Falklands Islands during the war there. After getting faster diesel engines, it was also decided the old lady needed some upgrades and these were undertaken in 1994. By the time the ship was retired, she had sailed nearly six million miles, carried 2.5 million passengers, and completed 806 transatlantic crossings.
I don’t like cruises. Period. My biggest nightmare is being stuck on a boat. – Joe Flanigan
I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships. – Gilda Radner
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. – Zora Neale Hurston
The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them. – Amelia Barr
Also on this day: “I’m Thinking” – In 1932 Jack Benny’s radio program premieres.
High Infidelity – In 1230, William de Braose was put to death after an affair with the royal wife.
Approved – In 1885, Good Housekeeping went on sale.
Battle of Alcatraz – In 1946, the battle began.